Of all the words used to describe distance runners, perseverance is often near the top of the list. Earlier this month I got the chance to witness this first hand.
I kicked off 2015 with a 30k trail run. Bangs Canyon 30K & 60K (Find them on Facebook). The course was beautiful and only slightly masochistic. And I can't wait to get back there and do it again. The last 3-5 miles were a sparsely marked trail amid a bit of a spider web of spur trails and bypasses. The race director told us at the start that this section was poorly marked because it was dark and he was cold. I pretend I made it through by just following the obvious line, but there is at least one point where I know I just got lucky and made the right turn.
Not everyone had the same luck. One lady didn't make the turn. She is usually near the back of the pack so it took a while for people to realize there might be an issue.
Kathy was taking way too long to get in. It was about to get really cold and really dark. A group of three guys from the front of the pack went out to find her and bring her more food and water. An hour later we got word from a jeeper that she was near, but headed the wrong way. I jumped in the truck with the race director, my wife, and dog and headed down the jeep trail to see what we could see.
One of the first (and only) vehicles we saw was an ATV. The driver had indeed seen Kathy, as well as the guys that went out after her. Our new favorite guy on the planet told us the guys should have met her on the trail a few minutes ago.
Not much farther down the trail we saw a group of pedestrians. Our group. (Of course it was our group. Everyone else knew better than to be out there.) The guys that went out to find Kathy, and the star herself. They were walking up the final climb. To be fair, most of us walked up the final climb, so no judgement is being passed, just a statement of fact. I can only imagine seeing the wave of heat escape the truck as the window came down. The RD leaned out and asked the group if anyone wanted a ride.
There was an awkward silence. The truck meant warmth, and a fairly comfortable seat. Not to mention a sweet old Golden Retriever with three legs who just wanted to lick the salt off your face and have a good tummy rub. Kathy spoke first. Well... Spoke is a rather verbose way to put it. It was clear Kathy was struggling and talking wasn't high on her list of things to do right now.
She waved off the truck.
She was finishing on her own.
After nearly 7 hours and nearly 3500 feet of climbing (with a bit more to climb!) she was going to persevere and finish this thing.
I turned the truck around, had some fun on the rock ledges (but not too much fun!) and followed the group up the hill. As the trail flattened out a bit a flash of movement caught my eye.
Kathy was running.
I made some comment about how impressed I was. The RD, an old friend from college, told me to remember that as I geared up for my stupid long runs this year. (Don't worry Kevin! I hope I never forget that sight.)
And then Kathy turned it on. Not only was she running, she was going to finish strong. This last 1/4 mile was hers. And I was in awe. It was Kevin the RD who jarred me out of it. "Hey. We need to get up there with her to give her an official time."
That's right. There was no cut off. The clock was running until the last finisher crossed the line. So the truck roared to life and we followed Kathy in to the finish. Close enough to give her a mostly accurate time, but hopefully I gave her enough room to not feel crowded.
A window opened in the truck and I heard Kevin yell out: 7:04!
And the runners and their support crew at the finish erupted in an explosion of cheering. The race was over. The final finisher crossed the line, and fell into the arms of her friend.
It is estimated that Kathy spent an extra hour to hour and a half wandering around in the snow covered desert of Western Colorado. We think we know where she made a wrong turn, and we think we understand how she got caught in a loop. And what it comes down to is, that could have been any of us. Due to the vegetation, snow cover, and rock formations, once you were ten feet off the main track, you couldn't really see the main track. And it was a maze of trails back there. The getting lost is ordinary - almost to be expected.
But perseverance? Waving off the truck was perseverance.
Running it in was perseverance.
Picking it up and giving a kick to the finish was not only perseverance, but (if you'll forgive the phrase) pure bad-assery.
I can only hope that I can find that kind heart and perseverance as I undertake my year of adventure.
I've been hinting at it for a while now. As of this morning, I'm officially signed up.
In September 2015, I am going to run 100 miles in a single effort. Run Rabbit Run, here I come!
There. I said it. The goal is set. It it no longer an idea floating around. It is no longer something I talk about maybe doing one day.
And setting a goal is as simple as that. You take something you are thinking about doing one day, and you make that day happen. But in order for a goal to be a real goal there are some general guidelines. Our friend Mike Beeman reminded us about this in the last RunJunkEe newsletter. (You do get the RunJunkEe newsletter, right?) In case you missed it, the acronym commonly used is S.M.A.R.T. You want SMART goals. It breaks down like this:
OK, we have goals. It's time to execute. How the heck do we make this happen?
This is where things start to get personal, and specific to your goal. At a minimum, you need to make a plan. And parts of that plan may include planning to do more planning in the future. The important part here is to have at least a high level idea of what is needed. The REALLY important part is to ask for help if you think you can't quite piece it together.
I couldn't quite piece together what it would take to get from maintenance miles to a solid 100 mile effort. I asked for help. I hired a coach. What you do to piece your goals together is going to depend on you, what you need, where you are starting, and what the goal is. Again, don't be afraid to ask for help.
I will be sharing my journey to a 100 mile run throughout the year. You will get to see as much of the experience as I can share. My hope is to show that an average guy can push his limits and do something that most people would say is impossible. How I plan to go about that is pretty simple, really. I plan to run. More than I have ever run before. I plan to follow the training my coach has set out for me. I plan to talk with my coach frequently and share what I am going through, and listen to what he has to offer. And I plan to enjoy as much of the journey as possible.
It's that time of year again. The time to sit in front of the fire with the Christmas tree twinkling in the background and reflect on the year we are closing. This is the last page of my calendar. In a few short weeks, I get to start a new one.
I always ask myself the same question: What did I do this year that was so special?
Well, the answer is almost always the same. I didn't really do anything. I just lived my life. But this year, I have some context to what that means, and this year that context helps me realize that I really do try to live my life in a special way. And that in itself, is something I'm a bit proud of.
One of my first runs of the year that I remember was a trip up a small mountain that I had been eyeing for some time. I had run around the mountain, but I had never touched the summit. And one of the local RunJunkEes was going to run the summit. So I snuck out of work a bit early (not obscenely early...) and we ran. I remember being a bit chilled in the spring air. I remember being thankful my running buddy wasn't in a hurry. I remember the hills being steeper than I expected. And the views better than I imagined. I remember missing a turn on the way back down and nearly missing the parking lot. There were smiles. It was a great time.
My wife and I take turns training for big events. This was her year. I did what I could at home to enable her to train as much as she could and wanted. And she gratefully took the opportunity, and did something awesome with it. And frankly, I didn't let those hours she was training go to waste either.
By the middle of the summer my kids thought it was normal behavior to wake up early on Saturday morning and load the car full of cardboard signs and go cheer for the runners or the bikers. It wasn't my intention to become a traveling race support crew, but it wound up being pretty fun. We made friends. We saw neat things. We made funny signs. We had snacks from Starbucks. And the kids learned a bit about racing and what that means. And they also learned a bit about the emotional support one can provide to a race. It's amazing to see runners faces light up when they see kids with signs.
In the peak of the summer heat I had a business trip to California. I managed to get out to meet a local RunJunkEe and put a few miles in around a very low and very beautiful reservoir. I don't know exactly how hot it was while we were running, but at one point in the day the thermometer in the car said 105F. We were planning on five-ish miles. A turn was missed. 5 turned to 6+. Even though it was hot, we were not complaining and were going slow enough to manage things. And we ended the run soaking in the reservoir, joking, laughing, having a great time in the water.
At the end of the summer, I volunteered for an ultra. My job was to sweep the course. Thanks to four wheel drive and high clearance I was able to drive the course even though the race director thought it wasn't possible. This day wound up being really important for me. This day I saw the real face of an ultra run. I didn't see the elite athletes that make the magazines. I saw the rest of the race. And that idea that had been rolling around in my mind for a while now stopped rolling, and set down roots. These people were just like me. After the race and the clean up I went to dinner with the race director and a small group of volunteers. And I learned a bit about the community ultra running is based on. And it was welcoming, and fun, and relaxing. And my mind was made up. It was time for me to join the ranks.
As my wife's event came and went (She crushed her 200+ mile bike ride, but that's her story to tell.) I started to ramp things up again. I started by inviting a group of RunJunkEes to join me running around and up a small mountain with a newly completed trail. The run is kind of a blur. Not because we were going fast, but because I wasn't really focusing on the run. There were people to chat with, wildlife to see, things to avoid tripping over, and one really big hill that I had somehow managed to forget was there. The run concluded with stretching and beverages in the parking lot. Stories were told. There were jokes. Everyone was wearing a smile.
One of my first longer runs wound up being a half marathon with one of my local RunJunkEes. She was looking for someone to help pace her, and I was looking for a run a couple miles shorter than the half. Looking back at it, the whole thing was a potential disaster waiting to happen. I didn't have the right shoes. I wasn't ready for the whole 13.1. I didn't know this lady. But I got shoes, and I showed up, and we ran. The pacing went better than expected. In face, she and I ran pretty well together. We attacked hills the same way - often reaching a faster pace at the top of the small rollers than we had at the start. The talking was just enough to let us both check our effort, and get to know each other a bit, but not enough that we were that chatty group. I pushed her through her wall (which was remarkably easy because she wanted it so bad) and she drug me the last mile or so. And we nailed the pace. Beat it even. And victory wore a smile.
It wasn't but a few weeks later that I heard of a new trail that had opened. Based on the maps, round trip was looking like a 20 mile run. I knew I could do 15. So I called the race director from the ultra, and we planned an outing. And this time, it was a glorious disaster. I knew the last five were going to be tough. I didn't anticipate my food melting. (Chocolate in the heat. What was I thinking?) I didn't anticipate running out of water. I didn't anticipate all the funny aches and pains that would make moving so difficult. I admit that I sat down on a rock and pondered why I was there. The answer must not have been too impressive because I don't remember. But I eventually got up and made the last 1.5 miles to the truck where my RD friend was waiting. I'm not sure if he wanted to say, "I told you so" but he kind of had that look on his face. And I remember laughing at the absurdity of my self inflicted situation. My resolve was not weakened, but my eyes were opened. I had a lot to learn. I admit, I wasn't smiling. I had my teeth grit with determination.
And I kept putting in the miles. Around this time the Colorado RunJunkEe chapter had decided to put a team together for a local 5k. A small group of us got together to pre-run the course to see just how tough the hills were going to be. The race director didn't lie. The first two miles were going to be fast. All downhill. Then mile three... We ran the course. We chatted. We laughed. We laughed at the ridiculous nature of the course. But we did it. Some of us more than once. On race day the weather turned miserable. It started clear and windy. And ended cold, cloudy, windy, and wet. But most the really bad stuff held off until after the running was done. The RunJunkEes all finished strong. We had beers. We watched the awards. Then the weather chased us all home. But the pictures are filled with smiles.
There were two more really long runs. I won't bore you with the details of the run, but there's a common theme. Friends were made. Smiles were shared.
And that's the theme I am applying to 2014 as we wrap it up. Smiles were shared. Miles were shared.
The goal for 2015 is now set as well. Share more smiles. Oh sure, I plan to run my ass off as well, and I plan to tell you all about that as it happens. But if I can't smile through it, and help someone else smile, what's the point?
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Merry Festivus... Whatever holiday(s) you celebrate this time of year, I hope you enjoy them and get the chance to share smiles and miles with friends and family.
I look forward to being further impressed by the RunJunkEe community in 2015.
Let me start with a confession. The Thanksgiving tradition of "what are you thankful for" has caused me stress since elementary school. But I have lots to be thankful for this year. I will try to avoid just making a list, but I can't promise that won't happen.
I am thankful for my family. Yes, it's cliche. But it's true. My life would be very incomplete without them.
I am thankful for my body. Sure, we all have moments when we look in the mirror and wish we maybe hadn't eaten the WHOLE bag of Oreos. But my body has been through a lot, and (for the most part) has come back stronger. This meat vessel constantly amazes me with how hard I can push it.
I am thankful for the mental strength to push my body. Lets be honest about it - pushing the body is a whole lot harder than just sitting on the couch. Using my mind and my body I have been able to see and experience some amazing things.
I am thankful for Dan Woods, and the opportunity he has given me. I am still proud, honored, and shocked that Dan has chosen me to help represent and grow his vision of RunJunkEes. This opportunity has been greater than either of us have probably imagined. I'm still just an ordinary guy trying to be the best runner I can be. But thanks to Dan and the RunJunkEes I have been shown that ordinary can be very helpful to others.
I am thankful for the RunJunkeEs community. Between my local chapter and the main group I have found some incredible friends, some awesomely supportive people, and I have even found a bit of myself. The connections I have made with this group have shaped up the last year of my life in ways I could not have expected. Further, they have pushed me to push myself to the point where my goals for the next year are truly rather frightening, and incredibly awesome.
I could go on, but it will quickly start to sound cliche. Let me sum up by saying this:
If you are reading this, I am thankful for you, even if I don't exactly know how or why yet.
A year ago tonight I was checking into my hotel in St. Paul, MN. Tomorrow would be packet pick up. The following day, I would wake up and go for a little run starting in Minneapolis, making a tour through the twin cities, and ending at the capital in St. Paul. Official course distance was 26.2 miles.
This was my second go at the distance, and the first attempt at a time goal. It was some time after the race that I heard the phrase "A marathon represents hundreds of miles. The race is simply the last 26.2 miles." And honestly, nothing could be closer to the truth. Running those hundreds of miles gives you a lot of time to think, experience, and learn.
What did I learn? Well, the short answer is simply: Everything.
No, really. Everything. Strength, weakness, pride, shame, humor, grief... At some point in the training and even the race, I think I experienced all of this. And then some. Much of it I look back on with fondness. Some of it makes me laugh. Some of it makes me worry. And some of it I'm still not sure I've fully come to terms with.
My first full was two years prior. I remember it got hot. I remember the shortage of porta potties at the start. I remember setting a 10K PR bolting for the next available potty. I remember the lady in my iPod telling me I was a marathoner sometime around mile 19. And that's when the learning started.
In this race I learned I loved hills. I learned the joy of new socks. I learned the heartbreak of being nowhere near the end. I learned how to push through discomfort, heat, lack of training, dehydration, poor fueling... I made every mistake possible. And I ran. I walked. I wanted to sit down and cry because I was no where near where I wanted to be. I did cry as I neared the finish line. I experienced the joy of cold pizza like I have never enjoyed it before (or since). I enjoyed a great shower, and a nap. And then I had ice cream. And it was all like I was experiencing those things for the first time.
2013 was different. In 2013 I was a serious runner. I trained hills. I did intervals on the track. I trained long with a running group. More importantly, the training was most definitely not easy.
This is where I learned that I am strong. I ran through the mid-day heat of the summer. I ran through a multi-week "biblical flood event." I ran hills. I ran trails. I ran pavement. For the first time in my running career I ran on a track and cared about my splits.
This is where I learned I am weak. I am human. When pushed too hard, too fast my body breaks. And I learned physical pain and injury.
I learned that when I take care of myself I feel better. Not only running, but eating well, sleeping well, stretching, having a team of professionals keep my body together like a triple crown contender.
I learned adaptability in the face of adversity. During the flooding rain I was able to find suitable high ground to train. (But only because my friends and family were all safe.) I did 12 miles of hill repeats on one paved little bump. I did a self supported 20 mile long run on one of the most boring pieces of sidewalk around because it wasn't flooded out. I modified my training schedule with confidence to work around the disaster. And I got all the miles in.
I learned lonely. I don't remember which long run I was doing, but I was a long ways away from the other runners. They had a short week. I had a much longer week. My event was several weeks ahead of theirs. I was running well. I was feeling fine and strong. It was getting hot. As my body broke down in the heat my mind did as well. I didn't want to be there. I pictured my kids sitting in front of the TV eating sugar cereal and laughing at the cartoons. And I wanted nothing more than to be right there with them. But first I had to at least make it back to the car. That was one of the hardest runs of my life. And the level of difficulty had nothing to do with the hills, the heat, or the effort.
Training for this race I learned giving. There were some slower runners in the group - the turtles, the race walkers, the warriors staring down a 5 hour half... As I came back in from my longer-than-theirs runs (remember my schedule was ahead of them...) I would often catch up to the walkers, and the runners that were having a really rough go of it. And with each one I would slow and go their pace for a while. And we would talk. After a bit there would be some minor changes - their posture, tone of voice, and sometimes attitude. And they were suddenly feeling just a little better about what they were doing. This would usually be confirmed as we stretched together after the run. And the giving of my time, and a few words helped me too. With the physical rest I was able to keep going. With the mental reward of seeing others just a bit better off my mind would allow me to keep pushing.
I believe I have blogged about the race itself in the past. But that race was a simple four hour excerpt of a much longer event. Sure, the race had the gamut of emotions and self realization as well. But it was in the training that I first experienced it all. Race day was a series of reminders about everything I had faced in training.
One of my favorite shirts of all time is the RunJunkEes orange shirt. On the back it reads, "The journey is the reward." Race day tells us when that journey is over, and when it is time to reflect and look back on the journey that got us there. I could carry on for hours...
I think the most important thing I learned running long is appreciation. Appreciation of friends, family, encouragement, difficulties... Appreciation of just the simple act of running. Appreciation of the journey for what it is. And that is what I try to carry forward with me. Appreciation. Every time I lace up, I appreciate the simple opportunity to get out there and run.
This should probably be marked as part one, as I have not yet figured out how this ends.
Eventually, something happens and we take some time off, or scale back considerably. It can be an injury, a commitment to a family member or work. During this break, one of the hardest things to do is keep focused, maintain dedication and not put on too much weight.
The weight is both the simplest and at the same time the most difficult issue to address. It's simple because we all know the basics of healthy eating and core premise of not eating more fuel than you burn. It's difficult because Oreos are good and sometimes one bag is one serving size. I could talk for weeks on the subject, but even I am somewhat of a failure when it's time to walk the walk. Really, all I can say is to eat knowingly and don't lie to yourself.
The dedication comes from the heart. If you are an active part of the RunJunkEe community the dedication is probably inside you somewhere. Running is either your way of life, one of your habits, or something you just really want to do. Maybe you are coming off a big race. Maybe you were ramping up the miles and got sidelined by an injury. Inside, you want to run. You want to race. But for one reason or another, you're going slow. You are taking it easy. Your personal definition of dedication is going to change. You may start looking at the quality of your miles vs the quantity. You may start measuring things based on enjoyment, or opportunity instead of pace and PR.
Focus. Focus is the killer. With time off, the mind wanders. The mind is a pretty terrible thing left to operate outside the confines of a training program. The next thing you know you're starting to think of new things to do, new goals, new races, new distances. Maybe you read magazines and books. Maybe you take up fishing and spend your long run time with a rod and reel in your hand. (Don't get me wrong, I love fishing. I just prefer to do it after I run.)
In my situation, I took most of this summer off from racing and training long. I still got miles in. I still ran. Just not "long" distances. My time running was generally limited to lunch breaks, and the odd weekend outing. My weekends were dedicated to kid duty while my wife trained for a killer two day, 200 mile bike ride. I got into a good pattern. I was averaging four runs a week and many weeks nailed five. But cramming all of that into five consecutive days took it's toll.
When I train long, I generally have to modify training schedules to work in an extra rest day. My body just can't too many consecutive days. And here I was, pushing 4-5 runs in 5 days. Then I came across a 100 miles in June challenge. And I tackled that like I tackle everything else - with all I had. I figured it out that running five days a week I could average five miles a run, and score a couple longer runs to easily hit 100 miles in a month. What I didn't count on was my eternal battle with foot ware combining with a full month of 5 runs in 5 days to result in some Plantar Fasciitis issues, which have evolved to some Achilles tendinitis issues.
Even with the injury, the 100 mile challenge was awesome for me. It gave me what my running had been missing - direction. It was simple enough that my mind still had time to wander. I still had time to read. But it was direct and simple enough to get me going even on days I didn't want to run. This simple challenge let me demonstrate my dedication (to myself, mostly) in a manner I knew and understood without thinking it through too much. And that made me feel comfortable and allowed me to embrace the challenge.
Unfortunately, the 100 mile challenge was rather simple and took no real thought on my part. While it took dedication, my focus was free to wander. And wander I did. I read books. I read magazines. I listened to podcasts. Worst of all, I thought. I thought a lot about running and life. And since the challenge at hand had nothing to do with time, I was free to relax and just "Run Happy." And it was great.
It's been a few months since the 100 miles of June. I'm back into my school year schedule. I'm still injured. Things still hurt. But I'm getting better. And all of that unstructured thinking and running has lead to new goals and the desire to push beyond my known limits.
And this is why I don't know how this ends. The injury is still there. That's a huge question mark. But I'm able to run through it. I don't know if I can push it hard enough to meet my goal. I don't even know if my goal is realistic for a person of my age, current weight, and background.
But I'm going to find out.
It seems we can't go two months without one of the mainstream running magazines running some sort of article about training for time vs training for distance. My take? For mortals, it's all bunk.
Marathon training is my favorite example of why the debate doesn't make sense, especially for first timers. The normal workouts and training runs for a marathon can easily be based on time for the duration training cycle. At this point the runner might be headed out of the office at lunch time, or getting in miles before work. The week day schedule might be summarized as the easy shakedown run, the speed run, the mid-distance run, and the tune up. Depending on the plan, there may be another run in there. Notably missing from the list is the long run. We'll get there.
Looking at these in terms of time/distance I will use examples from my last full marathon training plan, and my particular times.
The shakedown run (Monday) is 3-7 miles and should take me 30-60 minutes. My shortest run is 30 minutes, regardless of distance.
The speed run (Tuesday) is 3-6 miles. Again, my shortest run will be 30 minutes. Due to rest intervals, this may also take up to an hour. I must note that this workout, by definition, is based as much on the clock as distance.
The mid-distance run (Wednesday) goes 6-15 miles. This run is intimately related to the long run. I concede this one may be easily translated to a time based run, but the formula will probably need to take both the time and distance of the long run into consideration. Frankly, the math involved there hurts my head.
Thursday will likely be a rest day. If it isn't, it will be a shorter outing.
Friday is the tune up run. This will be fairly short, but a fairly important run in the 3-6 mile range.
Then comes the anchor of the marathon training - the long run. In my (not so humble) opinion this run must always be based on distance, especially for first time marathoners. The reason is quite simple. It is very difficult to pace for the long run - especially if you are expecting to finish the marathon in a time over about four hours. The big week will be 18-22 miles. To ensure you are properly set for the test of 26.2, the experts all agree that this longest week is crucial for steeling yourself. Shorting yourself the mileage just because you are running on the clock, not the distance, could very well lead to disaster on the day of the race.
And that's it in a nutshell. The long run is the anchor of the program. The long run must be done on distance. The other runs are all related to and based on the long run. And while one could take the time to figure out a clock based workout factoring in expected distance, demonstrated time, phases of the moon and the tides... Well frankly, it's just easier to lace up and run.
Now, all of this may seem as if I train only on distance. That is not exactly true. Even when I'm simply trying to maintain, I usually have weekly mileage goals. But I work full time, and my training slots are limited to a well defined period in the morning, or whatever I can manage to take for a lunch break. These workouts are always restricted by time. If I need to hit a certain distance for the mileage goal, I may need to reschedule meetings, arrange daycare, or any number of life-hack style gymnastics to open up an appropriate time slot in my schedule. And that isn't always possible. So, sometimes, I simply run the time I have permitted.
Every now and then I'm asked where I find my inspiration. The answer to that is both very simple, and very complicated.
The simple part? Inspiration is everywhere. As an example, driving my daughter to early morning figure skating practice I see the same two women running. I don't know them, but I've come to notice when they aren't there. I first noticed them back in January. I remember them because they were running in the pre-dawn light with headlamps and it was cold and icy. And I was impressed. Then I saw them a few more times that week. And I was more impressed. Looking back, I think we've missed more skating practices than they've missed runs. On more than one occasion I have wanted to bail on a run for one stupid reason or another, and the thought of these two women out there crushing it has been enough to get me to put the shoes on and take that seemingly impossible first step out the door.
See? The simple part is simple. If they can get a run in, so can I. Examples of that nature are all over the place if you look.
But there's a complicated side as well. Let me see if I can do this justice. I have met my biggest enemy. He knows me better than I know myself. He's that voice in the back of my head. The one that really determines if I will or if I won't. Watching an army of people running won't mean a thing if that little voice has determined there will be no run today.
I'm the first to admit my weakness. Sometimes I give in. Sometimes I even give in gladly. Sometimes I give in, and then I sulk about losing to the voice for hours, or days, or weeks.
But there's another voice. This one is usually much quieter. This voice rarely says much, but when he does it's often powerful enough to echo. This is the voice that tells Mr. Negative over there exactly where he can stick those negative thoughts. The problem is, I usually have to be completely beaten down to hear this little guy. Mile 2.5 of a 5k where I've given my all. My lungs are on fire. I can feel and hear my heart in every inch of my body. Everything is telling me to stop. Or at least slow down. And maybe I do. Maybe I do ease off. Maybe I even keep easing off and stop. And that's fine. Easing off provides a sense of relief. You can literally feel it washing over you sometimes. And in that relief there's a moment of silence and calm. Sometimes it's as brief as the gap between heartbeats. It is so nice there you just want to sit right where you are and revel in it. In that small gap, there's an even smaller voice that says all the right words at just the right time.
Mile 5 of my usual spring 10k. I've gone out too fast again. I can see the hill at the finish. Mr. Negative comes through again. Ease off. Get ready for the hill. Walk a bit. And maybe I do. Just like the 5K, a moment of peace, and that little voice chimes in.
Mile 24 of a marathon. Not only have I gone out too fast, I've fueled wrong. Mr. Negative is in the corner laughing as I'm hugging the trash can. There is no silence. My bodies violence roars in my ears as every muscle begs for peace and my stomach churns and expels so many half digested packets of gel. Somehow through this violence the little voice is there again.
And more often than not, I do. I lean forward. I pick up my knees. I quicken my step.
Why? How? Well, that's where it gets really complicated. That little voice is my inner strength. He knows if I've given it my all. He is the one that will feel bad if I look back on a race and realize I could have pushed a little more on that hill, or could have kicked into the finish a little harder.
I love to hear from this voice. Not only does it push me to go, it congratulates me on a job well done. This is the voice that recognizes not every race is a PR. Not every finish is a win, or an age group place. The battle may seem to be with the clock, or that one guy who keeps showing up and beating me by mere seconds every single time. But this voice knows the real battle is inside. It's the little voice against Mr. Negative and his loud, obnoxious voice. Every time this little voice wins, everything is happy. If I can look back on an effort and know that I gave it everything I had, I really can't ask for or expect any better.
But this is where it gets interesting. That little voice will congratulate me on a good effort and a good finish. That little voice will help me celebrate. And then, after the celebration it comes back.
Keep going? What does that mean? That was the voice that convinced me it was OK to sign up for the first 10k. That was the voice that convinced me to sign up for the first half marathon. That little voice convinced me to sign up for a full marathon. I've heard this voice before. Back in the day, this voice would often go rock climbing with me. This was the voice that pushed me to go higher. Climb harder. Try new things. This is the voice of the explorer.
And what an explorer. A true adventurer this one little voice is. But this little voice isn't always pushing to see new things on the outside. Just as often, this little voice is pushing to find something new on the inside. Just how much farther can I go? How much deeper can I dig? Like the fading phoenix, how low and dark can I get before the voice comes back to rekindle me.
We're about to find out. I'm taking on a new challenge. The explorer is pushing me again. I started training. I'm going long. Real long. The next 14 months will build slowly. September 2015 is the big race. I'll be pushed beyond where I've been. I'll be leaving my comfort zone and things known. I'm sure I'll spend a fair bit of time with Mr. Negative. And I'll fight through it. Because at the end of the fight, there's that little voice.
I spend my evenings in a similar manner to most people I know - trying to find somthing decent to watch on TV, stretching, and planning runs.
While flipping through the options on NetFlix I found a little movie called "Marathon." This is based in South Korea, and has english subtitles. If you don't like to read your movies, and you don't speak Korean, this one is probably not for you.
The story is simple, and touches on something that science is just starting to study and acknowledge. The main character is a young autistic man. The core of the story is how his mom pushes him to run because while running he can seem almost normal, and he's pretty dang good at it. So they train for a marathon.
The movie had a fair bit of character development, which seems to be lacking in many of the mainstream movies these days. That was a refreshing change.
There are a few sub-plots - like the alchoholic coach who had won Boston, and the family dynamic that is the center of our Hero's life. These do not detract from the film, nor distract from the true story, but do a pretty good job of augmenting the plot and give us some insight to real life for the characters.
Most importantly, the movie has a lot of running, and a lot of good running analogy and imagery. This movie does a good job showing non-runners a bit of what goes on during the long run. There is the physical breakdown, the mental breakdown, the mental recovery, and the physical recovery. This is shown both in training and in a race environment.
While I do not generally prefer to read TV, this was well worth the time. I'm not sure I would watch it again, but I'm glad I watched it.
Oddly enough, the IMDB crowd found it good enough to get 8/10 stars. (IMDB) While I do not generally agree with the IMDB critics, I think this time they got it about right. And if you understand the running, you may even rate it higher.
If you have a couple hours to kill, check it out.
Run on friends!